Counties: Business Facade Program Can Spark Economic Gains

On February 23, 2023, Associate Policy Director Dominic Butchko submitted testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee in support of HB 706 – Economic Development – Sustainable Communities – Business Facade Improvement Program.

This bill establishes the eponymous Business Facade Improvement Program to assist qualified businesses with improving the outside appearance of their buildings or facilities. HB 706 also requires the Department of Commerce to develop an application process for counties seeking to participate, and requires an annual appropriation for the Program as well. The ability of localities to keep their main streets and commercial districts looking vibrant and lively should not be discounted—it represents a relatively low cost means of boosting economic development at a time when Maryland’s businesses continue to struggle with a national economic downturn.

From the MACo Testimony:

In recent decades, certain community areas in Maryland have declined, largely due to economic factors that have seen many blue-collar jobs shift from the United States to other countries. This decline has been further exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many small businesses to close their doors and has altered the workplace dramatically. Main streets and business districts are a driving force in many local economies, so it is critical that these areas remain vibrant centers for commerce and entertainment. HB 706 would provide a significant tool for jurisdictions looking to direct investment into their business districts. The Business Facade Improvement Program provides counties with grants that they can direct toward certain commercial areas that may have fallen into disrepair or need aesthetic changes.

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